Laura Spencer

Arts Reporter

Laura Spencer caught the radio bug more than a decade ago when she was asked to read a newscast on the air on her first day volunteering for KOOP, the community radio station in Austin, Texas. 

After moving home to Kansas City, she learned the fine art of editing reel-to-reel tape as an intern and graduate assistant with the nationally syndicated literary program New Letters on the Air. Since 2001, she's focused her efforts on writing and producing feature stories as KCUR's Arts Reporter. 

In 2011, Laura was one of 21 journalists selected for USC Annenberg’s seventh National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Arts Journalism Institute in Theater and Musical Theater. She's received awards from the Associated Press, Kansas City Art Institute (Excellence in Visual Art and Education), Kansas City Association of Black Journalists, Missouri Broadcasters Association, Radio-Television News Directors Association (regional Edward R. Murrow Award) and Society for Professional Journalists. 

Ways to Connect

Michael St Maur Sheil

The National World War I Museum and Memorial plans several events, along with free admission for veterans and active-duty military personnel, to celebrate Monday's national holiday recognizing the men and women who've died in service to the U.S. military. 

"For a lot of families, it's really a significant moment to honor those who have served and especially those whose lives were lost," says Matthew Naylor, the museum's president and CEO.

KCPT

After more than 30 years at KCPT, Randy Mason, executive producer of cultural affairs, has been let go. KCUR has learned that three other staffers were also told their jobs were cut.

courtesy ArtsKC

After conducting a national search, ArtsKC, the regional arts council, on Monday announced a new president and CEO: Dana Knapp. 

Since January 1, 2017, Knapp has served as the interim leader of ArtsKC, a nonprofit arts organization that "promotes, supports and advocates for the arts across a five-county region." According to ArtsKC, Knapp "begins her new role immediately."

Davin Watne

Walk into Haw Contemporary in the Stockyards district of the West Bottoms, and in one gallery, artist Davin Watne has built a 30-foot long wall. There are nearly 40 paintings in a collage — small and large, clamped together — stretching the length of the room.

The exhibition, Picture the Wall, is, in part, an artistic response to Donald Trump’ s call for a wall along the U.S. and Mexico border during the 2016 presidential campaign. And it carries on a long tradition of, as Watne puts it, "oil on canvas as a means to convince" the public. 

Walt Whitaker / Office of the Secretary of State

A new executive order on Thursday will establish a commission to "review alleged voter fraud and voter suppression," according to news reports. 

President Donald Trump is expected to name Vice President Mike Pence as Chair and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach as Vice Chair,  ABC News reports. 

Ken Howard / Metropolitan Opera

Olathe, Kansas, native Scott Conner has performed on North American and European stages. Last month marked Conner's debut at the Metropolitan Opera in New York.

Through May 13, Conner plays the police commissioner in a new production of Richard Strauss’s opera, Der Rosenkavalier. One highlight: He shares the stage with opera diva Renée Fleming, who stars in a signature role as the aristocrat, the Marschallin.

Laura Spencer / KCUR 89.3

The House of Representatives on Thursday passed the American Health Care Act, the GOP-backed bill to replace the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare. 

House Republicans approved the plan by a narrow margin, 217 - 213. The measure goes next to the Senate.

In the waning hours before the vote, Indivisible Kansas City, a local branch of the national movement, organized a protest outside Republican Congressman Kevin Yoder's office in downtown Overland Park, Kansas. 

Joseph Morris / Wikimedia Commons

This post was updated at 1:38 p.m. on Thursday.

The House of Representatives voted Thursday to approve the American Health Care Act, touted by the GOP and President Donald Trump as a better alternative to President Obama's signature health care effort, the Affordable Care Act. The final vote, 217 - 213. All 193 Democrats in the House, joined by 20 Republicans, opposed the bill. 

Laura Spencer / KCUR 89.3

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art is mending fences with its neighbors. 

The museum has reached an agreement with two neighborhood associations about its properties. In dispute were the site of the former Rockhill Tennis Club and four houses on 45th Street just north of the museum. 

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

Updated: 2:11 p.m. 

A painter, sculptor, and muralist, Arthur Kraft was an artist who, as he put it, wanted to be "left alone to create." Kraft died in 1977 at the age of 55 after struggles with alcoholism and cancer. 

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

In 2010, Kansas City Public Schools closed nearly 30 schools, mostly because of declining enrollment and a budget deficit. Some of these buildings are still in limbo, and others have been sold, leased, or mothballed for future use.

At the former Westport Middle School at 200 E. 39th Street, classrooms, where students used to work on projects, are now co-working spaces for entrepreneurs. 

courtesy: Emporia State University

The Kansas Humanities Council on Thursday announced a new Kansas poet laureate: Kevin Rabas (pronounced as RAY-bus).

Rabas, an associate professor of poetry and playwriting at Emporia State University, grew up in Shawnee. He co-directs ESU's creative writing program and serves as co-editor of Flint Hills Review.

His latest collection of poetry, Songs for My Father: Poems & Stories, was published in 2016. 

Claire Tadokoro / KCUR 89.3

Moving back to Kansas City from New York City in the mid to late 1980s was an eye-opening experience for David Hughes.

"I started meeting artists, curators, dancers and musicians. I saw a lot of amazing individuals doing interesting work," says Hughes, who realized that "artists need support." 

American Century Investments, his employer at the time, contributed $10,000. And, in 1997, four cash awards were distributed to artists as the newly created Charlotte Street Foundation

courtesy of the artists; photo of Daniel Coburn by Bruce Wagman

Applicants are warned, as Inside Philanthropy puts it: "Don't even think about attempting to apply for this fellowship unless you are at the absolute top of your game."

courtesy Todd Rosenberg Photography

If you're not standing after a live performance of classical music, theater, or musical theater in Kansas City, you might be sitting alone. 

Standing ovations are standard practice these days, and that was the topic of discussion on Thursday's Central Standard.

So when it comes to a standing ovation, why do we stand up? And when does a production deserve it?

courtesy of the artist

Poet Nikki Giovanni's career spans five decades. A writer, activist and teacher, she's published more than 30 books of poetry and non-fiction as well as children's literature. 

"As a creative writer, I think, there are things you have to let go," Giovanni told New Letters on the Air host Angela Elam in a 2015 interview.

"I guess it's like anything else you do — you do it and you let it go. You do it and you let it go."

courtesy KCATA

The Kansas City Area Transportation Authority (KCATA) describes the Metro Area Express, or MAX, as "light rail on rubber tires." The city's bus rapid transit launched in 2005, and serves residential and commercial corridors along Main Street and Troost Avenue.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

On Thursday, the Kansas City Council approved a $1.59 billion budget for the 2017-2018 fiscal year. The new budget takes effect on May 1. 

Rep. Kevin Yoder Twitter

Updated 2:41 p.m. 

The vote on the Republican bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, will not take place on Thursday. The AP reports that House GOP leaders have delayed the vote. According to NPR, "it could get a vote Friday, but the path forward is uncertain." 

Congressman Kevin Yoder still appears to be undecided. 

courtesy B Trump Photography

For more than three decades, musician Bob Reeder has played weekly gigs — singing Irish folk songs and bawdy limericks — in an underground pub in Weston, Missouri. O'Malley's is roughly 50 feet underneath the ground in a limestone brewery cellar built in 1842. 

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

The new Bloch Galleries at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art showcase European art from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. This includes masterpieces of Impressionism and post-Impressionism collected by Marion and Henry Bloch — artists such as Edgar Degas, Claude Monet, and Vincent van Gogh.

But visitors to the galleries might also be dazzled by some of the technological upgrades from sound to lighting. 

Laura Spencer / KCUR 89.3

New trash trucks decked out with the downtown skyline or sports team logos, will soon be roaming the streets of Kansas City, Missouri.

The four trash trucks are wrapped in four different themes — Kansas City Royals, Kansas City Chiefs, Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro Leagues, and a view of downtown Kansas City landmarks.

courtesy Truck Center of America

Philanthropist, trucking industry magnate, and art collector Jerry Nerman died Tuesday morning at the age of 97 after a bout with pneumonia. As his son Lewis Nerman wrote in an email, his was "a life so well lived." 

Laura Spencer / KCUR 89.3

On Sunday, shortly before 11 a.m., British singer-songwriter Billy Bragg declared he was "itching to do a gig." It was day five of the Folk Alliance International Conference, and, as of that morning, Bragg had yet to play. 

UMKC

Peter Witte, dean of the UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance since 2008, will soon be leaving Kansas City for Stockton, California. The University of the Pacific announced on Wednesday that Witte had accepted the job as dean of their Conservatory of Music. 

This news comes at a critical time for the UMKC downtown arts campus at the corner of 17th and Broadway, just south of the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.

Laura Spencer / KCUR 89.3

When Folk Alliance International decided last spring on "a clenched fist of resistance against the struggle," as executive director Aengus Finnan described the poster art for its 2017 conference, organizers couldn't have predicted how relevant the theme Forbidden Folk, "celebrating activism in art," would resonate almost a year later. 

courtesy of Kansas City Art Institute

Many college students experience living in a dorm, especially their freshman year. But residence halls built decades ago aren't always able to meet the needs of today's digital-native students. 

On Thursday, the Kansas City Art Institute announced a $10 million gift from an anonymous donor via the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation. The donation will allow the four-year college of art and design to build a new residence hall. 

Julie Denesha and Laura Spencer / KCUR 89.3

Updated 3:30 p.m.  

"While the flames were dramatic, the fire damage could have been worse," stated City Manager Troy Schulte in a news release. "The redevelopment plan will move forward on schedule."

City officials said Thursday that despite the damage to two of the buildings in the historic 18th and Vine jazz district "there are no plans to demolish the surviving facades as a result of the fire."

Andrew Birgensmith / Kansas City Symphony

The day before Donald Trump's presidential inauguration, reports surfaced that his administration might cut funding for, or eliminate, federal arts agencies.

Laura Spencer / KCUR 89.3

Co-working is a growing trend for freelancers, small businesses, and startups. It provides a place to work, interact with others and share expenses. But artists, and makers of all kinds, often have specialized needs, when it comes to light, space, or tools. 

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